Bob Knight, the legendary, controversial coach who led Indiana University to three NCAA championships, passed away on Wednesday at his Bloomington home. He was 83. Knight, known for his fiery temperament and confrontations with various figures including university staff, the press, players, and even students, had been battling dementia in recent years.
Born Robert Montgomery Knight on October 25, 1940, in Massillon, Ohio, he grew up in Orrville, Ohio. He played under Fred Taylor at Ohio State, where the team reached three consecutive NCAA Championship games, winning the first but losing the next two. Knight’s coaching career began at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He then moved to Indiana University, where he became a hallmark of success and controversy in college basketball.
Knight’s time at Indiana, spanning from 1971 to 2000, was marked by his insistence on discipline, academic achievement, and adherence to NCAA rules, despite his critical views of the organization. His teams at Indiana shared or won 11 Big Ten titles, made five Final Four appearances, and his 1976 team remains the last in NCAA history to have an undefeated season. He finished his coaching career at Texas Tech, retiring in 2008 with a then-record 902 wins in NCAA Division I history.
Knight’s coaching prowess was undeniable, but his career was also marred by several contentious incidents. He faced accusations of physical and verbal abuse towards players, a conviction in absentia for hitting a police officer in Puerto Rico, and throwing a chair across the court during a game. These incidents, combined with his comments in the media, often drew criticism and controversy. In 2000, an altercation with an Indiana student, under a zero-tolerance policy by the university, led to his dismissal.
Despite these controversies, Knight was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991 and coached the U.S. men’s team to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. His coaching legacy includes influencing many players and coaches, including Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, who played for Knight at West Point.
Knight, who moved back to Bloomington in 2019, maintained a complicated relationship with Indiana University. He only returned to the campus in 2020 for a reunion of the 1980 team, showing a more emotional side in front of a large crowd of fans and former players.
Knight, a significant figure in the history of college basketball, is survived by his wife Karen Vieth Edgar and his sons Pat and Tim from his first marriage. His bold personality and coaching style, his impact on college basketball, and his complex legacy will be long remembered in the sports world.